TRENDSETTERS: J&J's Santiago Cardenas Looks at Latin American Opportunities
Santiago Cardenas heads Strategic Marketing Services for Johnson & Johnson’s Consumer Business in Latin America and is not stranger to the region and well understands its vast opportunities and occasional pitfalls. One of The Internationalist's Latin American 50, he's a J&J veteran with nearly two decades of marketing and management experience, which have included living in his native Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Central America. (His MBA in Marketing is from the US.)
According to Santiago Cardenas, "The single most important opportunity is to capture the hearts and brand preference of the Emerging Consumers." He explains how this will not only change marketing, but encourage marketers to better recognize the needs of this important new customer group. "The mid-tier consumer is growing significantly across many countries in the region to the point of becoming the largest socio-economic segment. In Brazil, the C class now represents more than 50% of the population -- gaining 20 million people in recent years. Economic prosperity, along with job stability, has created a new wave of consumers that now add to more than 100 million in Brazil alone. These consumers have similar needs, desires and aspirations of the established classes, but limited resources to fulfill them."
He reminds us of a critical point: "This rising new group of consumers is both savvy and brand loyal as they cannot afford to waste money on useless or lower-performing products."
As a result, Cardenas anticipates marketing challenges for the region related to Sustainability. "Our consumers are increasingly demanding more sustainable companies and brands. This is not only in regard to green products, but also includes overall social responsibility and economic development. I strongly believe that Sustainability is a state of mind that all marketers should truly start promoting from inside the company before creating isolated products or campaigns. Personal engagement is as critical as company commitment to meet the needs of the actual generations without compromising the future of the ones to come."
No marketing discussion of Latin America would be complete without a reference to opportunities in the digital space. “This is no longer the future,” says Santiago Cardenas. “It's a reality.” Internet penetration is growing exponentially in the region. The percentage of users in 2011 is estimated at 40% of total population; countries like Argentina, Chile, and Colombia will be above 50%. Brazil had 37 million users in 2007; today there are 75 million. This means doubling the number of internet users in just 3 years. This is largely attributed to the new wave of emerging consumers now connected to the web.
“With the increasing number of Internet users in general, and of social media in particular, consumers are gaining more control over equities and it's our duty to facilitate brand engagement and continuous monitoring through social media. It's key to setting an integrated communication strategy for our brands in which digital will play a more relevant role every day.”